Mitt Romney's team rocked as key player Tim Pawlenty walks

Co-chairman quits campaign as Republicans try to recover from video embarrassment

A top officer in the Mitt Romney presidential team abruptly abandoned ship yesterday offering fresh embarrassment for the Republican candidate and capping an awful 10 days of below-decks pandemonium and chaos.

With less than 50 days left in the race, Tim Pawlenty, the former Minnesota Governor who, as co-chairman of Mr Romney's campaign, had been one of his most visible spokesmen at the recent convention and on the trail, announced that he was bowing out to head a financial industry lobbying group in Washington.

The news was another unwelcome distraction just as Team Romney was taking steps to turn the page with a new stump script for the candidate emphasising his commitment to "the 100 per cent" of America and a newly packed schedule of campaigning by himself and running mate Paul Ryan that will kick off on Monday with a three-day bus tour of Ohio. Voters can also expect to see more of Ann Romney.

Both Mr Pawlenty, who was briefly a runner in the Republican primaries, and the campaign sought to downplay the departure. "While I regret he cannot continue as co-chair of my campaign, his new position advancing the integrity of our financial system is vital to the future of our country," Mr Romney said.

After refusing for several days to back down from the substance of comments video-taped at a donors' dinner in May, in which he wrote off 47 per cent of voters as "victims" who depend on handouts and therefore won't vote for him, Mr Romney changed tack abruptly at a forum taped by Univision, a Spanish-language channel, in Miami late on Wednesday.

"My campaign is about the 100 per cent in America and I'm concerned about them," he said, in a bid to bury all memory of his 47 per cent comments. "I've demonstrated my capacity to help the 100 per cent."

At a later rally, he tried to complete his rehabilitation by acknowledging that government support for people has a role. "That's how America works. We have big hearts. We care for people who have needs. We help lift them up," he said, before adding, "But then we don't make that a permanent lifestyle."

It will take more to dispel the gloom in Republican ranks, however, in part because the headwinds of recent days have not just been of Mr Romney's making.

Polling data continues to show that President Barack Obama got a lift out of his party's convention in Charlotte. More important, however, are new numbers showing that Americans are starting to evince more optimism about the chances of an economic recovery.

Since Charlotte, polls have shown the numbers of Americans who think the country is moving in the right direction jumping by six to nine points, including in a new Washington Post survey yesterday of voters in the key swing state of Virginia.

Mr Ryan, who will be the first to ride the Ohio bus tour next week, spent yesterday trying to reassure Republican colleagues in the House of Representatives at a behind-closed-doors meeting in Washington urging them "not to get distracted by the day-to-day polls," according to members who attended, and "to stay positive".

"Here's our commitment: we are going to make this about the big things," Mr Ryan told his peers. "We need to go on offense and we need to give our constituents the choice of two futures."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...

Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Technical Support Engineer

£19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company ar...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

£23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

Recruitment Genius: Developer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future